Letters to the Editor — August, 2011
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Letters to the Editor — August, 2011

By THE IRRAWADDY Monday, August 29, 2011

(Page 6 of 20)

The EU remains committed to continuing dialogue with the authorities of Burma/Myanmar and all other relevant stakeholders with the aim of helping the internal political process to develop in a positive manner.

You state in your editorial that missions undertaken by Piero Fassino , the EU’s Special Envoy on Burma have “failed miserably”. It may be worth recalling that the Special Envoy, a highly-respected MP and former Italian Minister of Justice, has undertaken numerous successful visits to Burma/Myanmar’s neighboring countries to ensure their support for the EU’s main aim: a positive political transition in the country. For a detailed overview of Mr. Fassino’s activities I invite you to consult his latest report which can be found at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cmsUpload/Report_EUSE_marzo-2010-46505.pdf. In addition to his numerous travels to the region, Mr. Fassino has also contributed substantively to countless high-level policy discussions on Burma/Myanmar at the European and global level.

Your assertion that “Fassino is known to have little knowledge of Burma and its political situation” is therefore totally erroneous, as much as your assertion that “Recent requests by Fassino to visit Burma have been rejected by the junta, however, while missions he was able to undertake in the past failed miserably”. In fact, EUSE Fassino has never visited Burma/Myanmar and the junta has not rejected any request to visit the country.

Your editorial goes on to state that “EU common policy is to maintain or increase sanctions against the regime”. This is a gross oversimplification of our policy. As the Conclusion of the Foreign Affairs Council dated 26 April (http://www.consiliun.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/11440.pdf) state, “the Council underlines its readiness to revise, amend or reinforce the measure it has already adopted in light of developments on the ground. The EU stands ready to respond positively to genuine progress in Burma/Myanmar.”

You further point out that the EU could increase pressure on the Burmese authorities “if necessary, including imposing an arms embargo on Burma”. I am sure you will be pleased to learn that an embargo on arms, munitions and military equipment has in fact been in place since the EU Common Position was initially adopted in 1996 (Common Position 96/635/CFSP).

You also wrongly accuse the EU of following a policy of “cutting funding for refugees on the Thai-Burmese border.” Since 1994, the European Commission has spent more than 140 million EUR for Burmese refugees on Thailand. Annual allocations have in fact seen a continuous increase over the year. In addition to this substantial financial commitment, the EU as the biggest donor to the camps has been instrumental in establishing, together with other donors, a policy dialogue with the Royal Thai Government to explore jointly how sustainable livelihoods for the refugees can be found, thus improving their lives.

You also make reference to the latest report of UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojeo Quintana, and claim the EU has remained “silent” on this issue. This ignores yet again the Conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council dated 26 April which state that “the Council welcomes the adoption of Resolution 13/25 of the UN Human Rights Council, and endorses the Progress report by the UN special Rapporteur, Mr. Quintana. It calls upon the authorities of Burma/Myanmar to cooperate with him in a constructive manner and comply in full with the UN’s recommendations, by taking urgent measures to put an end to violations of international human right and humanitarian law.”

In addition, the EU has on countless occasions expressed its critical views about the absence of tangible progress with regard to respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Contacts with the Burmese government- in the framework of the ASEAM process and of EU-ASEAM meetings- are regularly used to raise the Union’s concerns.

Lastly, as regards your speculation of divisions in opinion among EU Member states as to what the EU’s policy on Burma/Myanmar should be, I would like to assure you that relations with Burma/Myanmar continue to be framed by the EU Decision (see http://europlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:105:0022:0108:EN:PDF) which is fully supported and vigilantly implemented by all 27 EU Member states and the European Commission with a view to bringing about a peaceful transition to a democratic, civilian and inclusive system of government.

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